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4:31 PM on 02.08.2013

The Audible Protagonist Episode 5 - 100% British Beef and Gamecube is Owen Hart

Everyone’s favourite oral assault is here! It’s The Audible Protagonist!

This week, we chat about the rumours surrounding the next generation Xbox’s “no used games” crap, as well as the Valve/Abrams collaboration. We also talk about wrestling a whole lot, as well as Dragon Age, the OUYA, and Buddy Cop Portal.

Subscribe to us on iTunes to get the bizzzzz:.   read

1:30 PM on 02.03.2013

Multiplayer Within Context

Over the past three years or so, various game developers (and often more notably their publishers) have come under fire from gamers and industry folk for the so called “shoehorning” of multiplayer elements into what are often primarily single player games. Many consumers feel that this shift in focus is detrimental to the original single player experience and that it acts as a gateway for more sinister downloadable content, season pass and online pass practices.

Most of these criticisms are justified, and few developers have actually managed to prove dissenting voices wrong. Rather than question the addition of lacklustre multiplayer modes as a business practice, I’d rather question its addition on the grounds that, all too often, it makes no sense within the games lore or “universe”.

As despicable as online pass schemes and the belligerent homogenization of some games are, the blatant lack of respect for a games appeal that some multiplayer developers seem to show is of much greater concern to me.

Think back, if you will, to the release of Mass Effect 3 in March of 2012. Many fans of the series, myself included, were apprehensive, if not wholly pessimistic about the addition of a multiplayer mode in the latest instalment of what is predominantly a single player experience. When I got my hands on the game though; I was treated to exciting, intense, albeit simple wave based survival matches. The addition of free characters, maps and weapons (apology almost accepted EA) helped to ensure ME3’s multiplayer had some kind of longevity, and the fact that the mode was co-operative kept the majority of in game chat civil.

But there was another reason why ME3’s multiplayer felt like a breath of fresh air in a sea of vapid multiplayer shoehorning: it makes sense within the Mass Effect universe, and within the context of the game. Sure, you might have to suspend your belief when you see the Reapers send down waves of increasingly stronger enemies to engage in skirmishes with you, instead of just wiping you out with a giant laser, but such allowances are generally made across all games. What I mean is that for a game about the plight of a few brave warriors in the face of seemingly insurmountably odds, a wave based mode makes perfect sense.

Mass Effect 3 is a game about community and teamwork, as Commander Shepard must unite races with rather questionable morals and/or histories with each other, and trust in their ability to work as a team together. This is exactly what ME3’s multiplayer seems to be showing you. By teaming up with Quarian’s, Batarian’s, Turian’s and others, you’re essentially playing out Commander Shepard’s greatest wish: a unified galaxy against an undefeatable adversary. You are, in effect, the end to his means. This is why, whenever you play Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer, it never feels like it is misplaced or pointless. Because whenever a brave, lowly Turian Sentinel is struggling to hold out against a wave of cold, unforgiving Geth troopers, you know that (within Mass Effect’s universe) this is something that is happening everywhere, to almost everyone.

Compare this then, with other examples in the industry. EA is adamant that the Dead Space series should include multiplayer, despite that fact that Dead Space is supposed to be about loneliness, isolation and the inner psyche of a single character. Isaac Clarke is supposed to be trapped, alone and out of his depth, in a giant tin can in space filled with bloodthirsty mutants. Throw in four random players to go repeatedly gallivanting around the ship fighting necromorphs in order to level up, and things get a little weird. Dead Space is about survival, and, although you’re supposed to want to be there you’re not supposed to expect Isaac (or anyone else) to want to be there too. Repeatedly returning to a necromorph (an army with relatively few numbers) infested area seems like a fool’s errand, whereas fighting off against hordes of Reapers (with a seemingly limitless supply of troops) is a necessity; it has to be done.

For similar reasons, the concept of an Elder Scrolls or Fallout MMO just seems flawed to me. Whenever I play Fallout 3 or Skyrim, I want it to be a lonely, solitary experience, and as such; roaming around the wasteland with K1LLSnyPZ14 and urMUMizaF4twhoreee sounds about as appealing as meeting either aforementioned delinquent in person.

Furthermore, several clueless people have voiced a desire for online multiplayer to be included in the next main series Fallout game. The Fallout series is set within a post-apocalyptic alternate reality, and in any world wherein 95% of the population was wiped out by nuclear war: there aren’t many people left. Once again, having online multiplayer doesn’t make sense within the context of the Fallout universe.

Now, I’m not saying developers should sacrifice fun in favour of realism or a sense of narrative cohesion. But I must insist that they at least try to respect the world in which their game takes place, and in turn, try to develop multiplayer modes that work within that world.

With EA now declaring a “no single player games” policy, it’s unlikely that this incessant multiplayer shoehorning debacle will end any time soon. Hopefully, though single player games will still be able to thrive on their own merits, and people will realise that Fallout 3 boasts an 100+ hour campaign full of exploration, intrigue and most importantly: fun. Insisting that the Fallout experience would be enhanced by online deathmatches or intrusive drop-in-drop-out co-op is plain ignorant.   read

2:05 PM on 01.27.2013

The Audible Protagonist Episode 4 - Story Time, Gestapo 2 and Im-Palin 2016

It's the fourth, technologically superior episode of The Audible Protagonist, and as a special treat for your ear holes, I decided to read some gripping works of fiction that will literally astound you for several minutes!

We also discuss questionable election ad campaigns for Sarah Palin's inevitable Presidency, a whole bunch of wrestling talk, some junk about Double Fine's The Cave, and STEVEN HAS A NEW MIC AND IS VERY EXCITED ABOUT THAT.

Also, I need only hear back from the folks at iTunes before The Audible Protagonist is a go on iTunes!

iTunes coming soon.................enigma................   read

3:43 PM on 01.18.2013

The Most Overlooked Game of 2012

While it might seem a little late to still be doing “____ of 2012” articles, there are some things that cannot be left un-said. Amidst each year’s appalling disasters and critic’s darlings, there sits a graveyard of games neither brilliant nor terrible; merely “pretty good”. Such games can often be overlooked by the general public, be it because of a lack of marketing, an uninteresting concept, or because it isn’t a yearly sports title.

I am not talking about small, independent games funded and developed by one or two people; blatantly overlooked because the games budget can’t support a widespread release. I am talking about mainstream titles funded by big-money publishers, and developed by large teams of skilled individuals. Games that, for all intents and purposes, should be a success, but end up drowning in bargain bins surrounded by old copies of Too Human and Imagine: Girl Band.

For me, the most overlooked game of 2012 was one that failed in so many aspects, but its successes made it one of the most unique titles of the year. Poor Binary Domain, you were doomed from the start.

To pick up a copy of Binary Domain (which you should do, it’s very cheap now) on a store shelf would be an exercise in apathy. The games artwork proudly displays burly alpha males right out of the Gears of War playbook, fronted by a man who would win first place in a Chris Redfield lookalike competition. First impressions are definitely not BD’s forte.

Insert the game disc into your personal virtual entertainment noise box of choice, and be greeted by a bland, black and white menu screen, the navigation of which is accompanied by generic bleeps and bloops. Boot up the campaign, and witness the two seemingly worst game characters ever engaging in tired, cliché ridden dialogue. They crack wise, they spout one liners at break neck speed, they say vaguely homoerotic things in a schoolboy attempt to seem quirky, you know the score; it’s Army of Two but even less well-intentioned.

After what feels like an hour of tutorials accompanied by more inane, cringe worthy chit chat, Binary Domain starts to display signs of competence. Environments are sleek, detailed and suitably bleak for a digital dystopia, whilst combat is simple, engaging and fun.

All too often in the games industry, zombies are used as a means to provide mindless, morally justified murder. Binary Domain however, tries the same trick with robots; and the results are equally satisfying if not more so. By targeting individual body parts, the player can dismember or behead their robotic foes; disabling the enemy’s movement, accuracy or weaponry (and creating a glorious shower of metal to boot).

Sure, a solid shooter is fine, but we’ve seen plenty of those. Where Binary Domain retains some of its inherent Japanese-ness is in its boss fights. Only mere hours into the games robust campaign, players will face a large, spider-like robot the height of a skyscraper and the width of a football pitch. Fighting the boss is a pretty mundane affair (target the weak spots to disable the legs), but what stands out about it is its sheer size and scale. Other bosses in the game are equally aesthetically pleasing, often resembling mechanized versions of bosses from Bayonetta.

So we’ve established Binary Domain plays pretty well, surprisingly able to hold its own against most modern third person shooters, but this is not why the game has remained lodged somewhere in the weirder parts of my brain. No, Binary Domain is truly memorable for its ludicrous, yet often poignant story. The game follows Dan Marshall and his “rust crew”, an elite squad of soldiers from around the globe tasked with eliminating “Hollow Children”; robots that believe they are human.

The crew is essentially a who’s who of familiar videogame stereotypes: there’s the wise-cracking black sidekick (Big Bo), the needlessly sarcastic British guy (Charles), the butch girl who exists so the developers could say “Look she’s not hot! That’s respect!” and barely says two words throughout the game (Rachael). Not to mention that Dan essentially resembles every game protagonist to have been created in the last 10 years: stocky, dark hair, gruff manliness hidden beneath a thin veneer of what could almost be described as a sense of humour.

The plot itself is actually a refreshing blend of Blade Runner and Terminator, and as the story progresses the team begin to question the true nature of their orders, and what it really means to be human. Without spoiling anything for prospective players, one of Dan’s crew members is actually a “Hollow Child” and as events unfold, we begin to wonder what makes them any less human than their squishy, organ filled squad members.

As these questions start to arise, the games characters start to become more fleshed out too. Dan and Bo’s idiotic jokes seem to be a coping mechanism; one that wears off as the game progresses and they start to show signs of sensitivity and (gasp!) emotion. We start to learn more about Dan’s past and his mistrust towards robot-kind.

All of this culminated in a bat-shit crazy finale filled with death, totally unexpected betrayals, triple crosses, and (sorry but I’m going to have to SPOLIER ALERT here) the reveal that new robot human hybrids are being created that possess the ability to birth children. Robots; giving birth to robo-human children. Seriously, this happens.

I thoroughly disliked Binary Domain at first, but the deeper I delved into the story of Dan’s “rust crew” and the games intriguing sci-fi pseudo-utopian world, the more hooked I became. Binary Domain taught me that first impressions aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. I implore you dear reader, if you’ve the cash and time spare, please check out Binary Domain, and hopefully, you won’t regret it.   read

4:54 PM on 01.17.2013

The Audible Protagonist Episode 3 - Game Pitches and Forced Gestapo Initiation

Another episode of The Audible Protagonist is here, bringing with it fun, frolicking and fro-licking!

In this episode we each pitch ideas for games resulting in such game of the year contenders as: Job Interactive, Jewish Rats, Not-RPG and M From James Bond. We also discuss WWE 13, The Sims (Steve can't get enough), Assassin's Creed 3 and big moves for feminism.

Listen on Soundcloud

Download from Mediafire:   read

2:03 PM on 01.07.2013

The Audible Protagonist Episode 2 - 2012 In Review and Wiildos

It's time for the second episode of The Audible Protagonist you crazy kids!

In this episode, we look back on the best games of the year, and look forward to what 2013 will bring. We also talk about motion control sex toys, Pokemon sexual offenders, Far Cry 3, The Sims (again) and Darwin disagrees with everything anyone says.

Download it:

For the blog that started it all:   read

4:24 PM on 01.04.2013

SuperCrow's Top 5 Games of 2012

As a new year unceremoniously kicks us in our collective groins and barks at us to get back to work/school/being poor, we can look back on 2012 and the gaming stories it brought with it. There were public relations nightmares, development companies going under, and a ton of terrible games.

On the bright side, though, whilst many game collections might have felt somewhat devoid of great titles earlier in the year, the final quarter of 2012 saw the release of some real corkers.

What follows is a list of my personal favourite games of 2012, and the reasons for such choices.

[Please be aware that these are the opinions of one person, and as such you are free to disagree or agree accordingly (duh). Also, nobody can play every game that releases in a year, so before you ask: “Where’s Journey?” or “Why don’t I see Far Cry 3 on this list?” it’s because I didn’t play them. ¿Comprende?]

Number 5:

Mass Effect 3

While this might seem like a controversial decision for obvious reasons, I still firmly believe that 90% of Mass Effect 3 was fantastic. With the most streamlined combat the series has seen, deep yet simple to use customization options, stellar character and level design, and brilliant writing for established characters, I can’t help but look back fondly on most of ME3.

Also, I thoroughly enjoyed what turned out to be a surprisingly solid multiplayer mode in Mass Effect 3, so much so that I played it for 100+ hours (not something I do regularly).

Sure the ending sucked (it was lazy, it didn’t make sense, there was no payoff, you know the score
by now), there weren’t enough interesting squad members to pick, and James Vega, but despite all of these problems, I still firmly believe Mass Effect 3 was one of the best games of 2012.

Drew Karpyshyn would have made that ending work though.

Number 4:


Finally released back in April after what seemed like a lifetime of waiting, it’s quite possible a great many people have forgotten about FEZ, not least because the games release was marred in
controversy after reportedly “racist comments” made by developer Phil Fish.

Despite its misgivings though, FEZ managed to deliver one of the most unique and awe inspiring platforming experiences you could ever hope to have. The game was essentially one of the most mind bogglingly inventive gameplay mechanics wrapped up inside breath-taking, retro visuals, an insanely catchy soundtrack, and some of the finest level design imaginable.

It may not have set the world on fire like a lot of people were expecting, but, to me; FEZ was a refreshingly beautiful splash of colour in a murky sea of brown.

Number 3:

Hotline Miami

So rarely does a game manage to provide the thrill of brutal violence whilst simultaneously making you care for the characters or the narrative within said game. The Grand Theft Auto series tries, but often struggles to create sympathetic characters out of people who are essentially ultra-violent sociopaths.

Enter Hotline Miami, an unnerving, frustratingly fun, dark, edgy and overtly shocking top down 16 bit splatter fest. Even describing the game is fun.

Hotline Miami follows an unknown protagonist as he mindlessly slaughters people. Why does he do it? He’s been brainwashed into it. Such a simple plot device allows the player to commit atrocious acts of violence whilst still feeling connected to the main character.

For a full run down of the game and its qualities, read my full review, but I’ll just say that the way the game messes with your head will change you as a person, and how you view your attitudes towards

Read my full review here:

Number 2:

XCOM: Enemy Unknown

One of the drawbacks of playing games predominantly on consoles is that there are so few strategy
games to be found in console space, and even fewer are worth writing home about. XCOM: Enemy Unknown manages to bring deep yet accessible strategy gameplay to consoles and it makes it work, even up to the point where some players prefer the console controls to the PC alternative.

Not only that, XCOM also managed to revive a franchise many people once cherished, without resorting to excessive dumbing down of gameplay elements. Playing Enemy Unknown reminded me of my childhood days; assembling Action Men to embark on treacherous missions to stop Dr X.

Each Action Man had a story, a life, a background, none of which was provided by the toy company; I simply improved upon the blank slate they had given me.

This is what XCOM does. It manages to marry intense gameplay to a feeling of personalization, and
in doing so created some of my favourite gaming moments of 2012.

Read my full review here:

Number 1

The Walking Dead

Could it really be anything else?

Looking back (through my special time window) to the end of 2011, I never would have thought that an episodic, point and click adventure spin off of a franchise I was only mildly interested in would be my favourite game of the year. Despite the respect and adoration I hold for such games when done right, I really didn’t envision The Walking Dead being the gripping, emotional revival of adventure games it was touted as. How wrong I was.

No other game this year made me laugh, cry, scream and curse as much as The Walking Dead, and no other game managed to craft an emotionally engaging story so effortlessly either. The most important thing for any game to achieve is to impact you emotionally, but thanks to lazy writing, poor characterization and a general lack of good storytelling, few games managed to succeed at this.

The Walking Dead is a game changer, and might even be the answer to a lot of the problems the games industry has today. It has helped to popularise the downloadable market, indie studios, episodic gaming and may have even drummed up interest for future adventure titles.

Despite all of these grand claims though, what matters most is: the story of Lee and Clementine is one that I will never forget, a story so honest and heart breaking, it is un-paralleled.

Read my full review here:

Runners Up

Lollipop Chainsaw
Ghost Recon: Future Soldier
Sleeping Dogs
Mark of the Ninja

Agree/Disagree with my choices? Why not tell me in an appropriate, civilized manner? I’m always happy to debate any opinions about games.   read

5:06 PM on 12.18.2012

Preview/Review: Double Fine's Amnesia Fortnight!

For those of you who aren’t aware, Amnesia Fortnight is an annual event held by legendary development studio Double Fine. In this two week period, the studio takes a break from whatever game they are currently working on, and divides the company into five small design teams. Each team is then tasked with developing a prototype for a completely original game.

In previous years, the projects prototypes have led to successful games like Stacking, Iron Brigade, and Costume Quest. This year, however, Double Fine has teamed up with the delightful folks at Humble Bundle, to deliver a pay-what-you-want bundle of prototypes; with a customizable portion of the payments going to the Child’s Play charity.

Twenty three game ideas were pitched, but, after a week of public voting, only five made the cut.

As a supporter of Humble Bundle, and the work of Double Fine in general, I decided to contribute and give the prototypes a try. My thoughts are as follows:

[Please be aware that all games are prototypes and contain various bugs and teething problems]

SpaceBase DF-9

Pegged as “Dwarf Fortress in Space”, SpaceBase DF-9 is a stylish, top-down simulation game wherein the player must build a space station populated by simulated citizens (usually called Spock Kenobi or other similar sci-fi references). While these citizens can’t be directly controlled, they can assist in the building of new structures, and the player can assign them jobs to fit in with the buildable areas in the SpaceBase. If a citizen gets sick (diseases like “Cosmic Chlamydia” never failed to make me laugh), you’ll need an infirmary, and a doctor to work there. Want a pub so your citizens can socialise? You’ll need a bartender to serve the drinks.

DF-9’s building tools are simple and easy to use; the player uses a grid selection tool to place new structures, and a similar tool to insert “zones”, the different coloured floors that highlight the type of area being built (e.g. Lab, Garden etc.) In game time can even be sped up by x32 to make building times fly by.

Double Fine’s signature sense of humour is as prevalent as always in SpaceBase, usually in the form of the notification-style information delivered to the player regarding citizen status, meteor collisions, and the occasional murder (oooh).

Since this is only a prototype, there aren’t really many things to do from here on in. There are never any interesting interactions between citizens, and the areas and jobs you create don’t seem to have a noticeable impact on the base as a whole. Since the citizens are powered only by their own free will, I also had problems, when trying to expand my base, with citizens just refusing to build essential structures.

At the end of the day most of these are teething/timing problems rather than design oversights, and to create a fully functioning simulation game in two weeks is nothing short of impressive.

The Verdict: Promising. Conceptually simple, yet delivered with charm and enthusiasm. I’d be pretty pleased if this got the green light.

Hack ‘n Slash

Standing proud as the prototype with the most votes, Hack ‘n Slash, had a lot to live up to. Lead designer Brandon Dillon promised a Zelda-esque adventure game with a twist: the player could use in game items and glitches to essentially “hack” their way through the game (hence the “hack” in Hack ‘n Slash). As somebody who has absolutely no interest or aptitude for coding/hacking/programming, this game held absolutely no interest for me. Now that I’ve played the prototype, I really hope Double Fine follows through with a full game.

The beauty of Hack ‘n Slash, apart from its fantastic 2-D art direction, comes from the ever humorous juxtaposition the game provides. You start off wandering around forests and castles in typical Zelda fashion, only instead of being gifted swords and magical artefacts, you receive laptop recording software (used as a sort of auto-save mechanic), time slowing devices (similar to those found in Braid) and an input device (used to interact with enemies, then access the game’s code to decrease their health to zero.) The contrasting elements of high fantasy and programmer tools are a constant source of amusement, and, along with the fantastic character design and hilariously irreverent dialogue, make Hack ‘n Slash a charming little adventure game.

Puzzles, so far, are simple but challenging, and do a great job of highlighting the potential of the games mechanics. The prototype does have a few (unintended) glitches and collision problems, but nothing that isn’t understandable given the development constraints.

To top it all off, Hack ‘n Slash like most of the Amnesia Fortnight entries, features a fantastic soundtrack, one that harks back to older game soundtracks that relied more on simple, memorable melodies, rather than epic, sweeping orchestral movements.

The verdict: Excellent. The culmination of brilliant design, execution and art direction; the prototype itself is an impressive feat, and a full game would surely be even more impressive.

Black Lake

From the get-go, it is apparent that Black Lake is the brain child of an artist. While Hack ‘n Slash is a programmer’s wet dream, Levi Ryken’s Black Lake is trying its best to arouse the senses. It does a pretty great job.

In Black Lake, the player steps into the shoes of a young, Russian girl, who, with the aid of her trusty accordion, must track down a mysterious fox through a dark, atmospheric forest. Black Lake is probably the most beautiful looking game of this year’s Amnesia Fortnight; the use of darkness and light when switching the girl’s lantern on (for tracking footprints) and off (for heightening other senses) is incredibly satisfying to look at. The game’s environment has also been designed with great care and attention, at times feeling like some of Skyrim’s more enchanting woodland locations.

Tied together with solid controls, a fantastic soundtrack, and some truly terrifying enemy design (which I won’t spoil for anyone interested in playing), Black Lake is a prototype that succeeds practically as well as conceptually.

It is also satisfying that, even in a game’s early development stages, it can be a terrifying experience, despite not being presented as an overtly “Horror” game.

The verdict: Excellent. Equal parts relaxing and frightening, Black Lake is like taking a bath in milk, then having the bath invaded by wasps (in a good way.)

The White Birch

The White Birch is a 3-D puzzle platformer, set inside a large tower that must be scaled by the player. Conceptually, this game held great interest for me. I really enjoy puzzle platformers, and something that sounded like an artier, more abstract version of Tomb Raider seemed right up my alley.

Unfortunately, The White Birch fails not in its design or ideas, all of which are pretty sound. Rather, the game is rendered near unplayable by dreadful collision detection, clunky controls, poorly placed cameras and various other glitches. My friend and I spent around half an hour trying to solve a simple bridge puzzle (one that we had already figured out how to solve) because the bridge either: reverted to its state from before my last death, appeared as a large texture-less oblong (it was supposed to look like a ladder), or just failed to behave like a solid object.

Many other times, I would push the analogue stick a certain way, only for my character to move a different way because the camera had swung round into a rather unhelpful angle. I understand the time constraints of the Amnesia Fortnight developers, and I feel like a real negative Nelly for speaking ill of such a game, but I’ll admit: I couldn’t even finish The White Birch.

The Verdict: Disappointing. A game that feels like it could be fun and interesting, if it wasn’t fundamentally broken.


Autonomous puts the player in an open world setting populated by large hostile robots and clusters of energy. Through the game’s first person perspective, the player must collect energy and robot parts, both of which are used in the creation of personal automatons. These automatons can be programmed with different attributes and skill sets, before being sent on their way to patrol the area, hopefully protecting you from any hostiles in the area.

The aim of the game is survival. While the player cannot directly control the automatons, they react based on the programming assigned by the player, leading to an almost 3-D tower defence experience.

Featuring solid controls, a fantastic 80s inspired, synth-laden soundtrack, and a rather Tron-esque aesthetic, Autonomous is a polished, balanced experience tailored to those of us who have always wanted our own robot pal. Out of all the games in the bundle, I could see Autonomous being swept up by a publisher first, purely for its broad appeal.

The Verdict: Good. While it didn’t blow me away (maybe I’m just not that into big robots?), Autonomous is a well-made prototype, with great potential for a full, open world, survival game.

To be honest, each of these prototypes tries something new, for better or worse, so I’d be pleased if any of them made it to be a full game, purely for the sake of variety in today’s market. Don’t forget to check out Double Fine’s work, and support the guys at Humble Bundle whenever a new bundle comes up. Double Fine and Humble Inc. still remain bright lights in an ever darkening world of videogames.   read

3:18 PM on 12.04.2012

The Audible Protagonist Episode 1 - Gamer Credentials and Condom Fishing

To coincide with my blog and my various works around the interweb, my friends and I decided to start a podcast! That podcast is The Audible Protagonist.

Each week, we will be tackling a specific, gaming related subject, then swerving rather ungraciously off-topic. This week, we decided to talk about "Gamer Cred", and all the bullshit that comes with it. We also talk about The Sims 3, Runescape, fan fiction, Twilight, Urbz sex, Dragon’s Dogma and Christopher Walken.

You can listen to/download the podcast here:

For my blog, go here:

For Mitt Romney's signature:

Intro music lovingly provided by Squared Eyes:   read

11:47 AM on 12.03.2012

Dishonored is the Perfect Assassin's Creed Game

The original Assassin’s Creed, despite its repetitive “information gathering” missions and rather silly plot, was pretty great. It was essentially a series of assassination missions, wherein the player could plan their attack route and stealthily approach their target, all of which was tied together within a strange conspiracy theory plot.

Forget weird, glowing apples. Forget being chased down by guards for riding your horse too fast. Forget: “A crusade for what?! Ignorance?! Violence?! Madness?!” When it came to stabbing people, Assassin’s Creed did a pretty good job.

It allowed for a decent amount of choice when plotting assaults, and required a substantial, but not unreasonable, amount of forethought in order to take out a target without being spotted.

I don’t know if you’ve played an Assassin’s Creed game recently, but these elements feel somewhat dialled back or toned down in new instalments of the series.

When did real estate become the new stabbing people?

It all began with Assassin’s Creed 2; still a game about an assassin embroiled in a war with the Templars, but something with some interesting new twists. Ubisoft tried to include more RPG elements this time around, allowing the player to buy new outfits for Ezio, purchase more weapons, invest in local shops, and even renovate his family’s countryside villa. Great; now I can kill people, become a property tycoon, and dress like a flamboyant twat.

Despite all these extra activities, AC2 was still a game about assassination, and the game’s improved open world still allowed for different approaches to dispatching assassination targets effectively.

The problem I have isn’t with Assassin’s Creed 2, it’s with what it paved the way for. With each new instalment, AC games have provided players with more and more mindless activities to complete in order to fill out some sort of strange Assassin’s quota or checklist. Most of these activities aren’t even fun, rather they just provide players with something to do, creating the illusion of gameplay depth.

As I played Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, and tried, as best I could, to ignore the game’s cesspit of micromanagement tasks; I realised something. Now, with the implementation of the “Brotherhood”, I didn’t even have to kill anyone. I could leave behind all that tedious, oafish assassinating and sneaking, and instead focus on far more engaging tasks like dying my clothes and collecting feathers. Why bother putting in all that effort to kill anyone, when I can order some faceless nobodies to do it for me, as I sit in a large leather armchair, masturbating into all the flags I’ve collected.

In all seriousness though, to call Brotherhood an AC game would be to completely ignore what an assassin is and does. Mundanity’s Creed would have been a far more fitting name.

This is where we come to Dishonored, whose publishers had the stones to release their game a mere three weeks before the highly anticipated release of that other game about stabbing people: Assassin’s Creed: III. This might seem like a foolish move, but when you consider that Dishonored is actually a game about assassinating people, rather than a game about seeing how many icons you can erase from your mini-map, Bethesda probably made the right choice.

Dishonored did a lot of great things, but by far its weirdest quality, was the way it reminded me of how good Assassin’s Creed could be, if it was anything like it was supposed to be. As I slid Corvo’s blade into the neck of another morally stunted aristocrat, I was hit with a revelation. I realised that, with its open, sandbox level design and its deep, varied missions, Dishonored was exactly the game I was expecting every time I slipped an AC game into my Xbox.

Dishonored cares little for management tasks, there are no arbitrary racing missions, and, despite Corvo residing in the hub world; “The Hound Pits Pub”, there were no meaningless renovation tasks. Instead, the game allowed me to focus on honing my stealth/combat skills in order to best eliminate my enemies. A game that revolves around killing people with sharp objects actually lets me kill people with sharp objects!

You might think I’m simplifying these games a gross amount, but I feel like the Assassin’s Creed series is selling itself as something it isn’t. The post AC1 games were regarded as “more streamlined” than the original game, but considering their total lack of focus or direction, and their desire to constantly barrage you with new tasks makes them feel far less streamlined to me. Ubisoft doesn’t seem to realise that, often, to streamline a piece of entertainment, a “less is more” attitude is often essential.

In fact, if you play Assassin’s Creed 1, then play Dishonored; they actually feel pretty similar in a lot of ways. Rather than a cluttered mess of odd jobs and fetch quests, most activities in both games are important to the game’s storyline, or, at least, important to the player’s enjoyment of the game.

Maybe Ubisoft could take some pointers from Arkane Studios, and realise that bigger isn’t always better.   read

3:40 PM on 11.18.2012

I Never Asked For This: Video Games vs Movies

Following announcements regarding Michael Fassbender’s apparent involvement in the Assassin’s Creed movie slated for the end of 2013, as well as announcements regarding Scott Derrickson’s (he wrote Sinister apparently) involvement in the movie adaptation of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, I got to thinking about the rather tenuous, dysfunctional relationship video games and movies seem to share.

Video games can now embrace the same cinematographic techniques utilised by filmmakers, games like L.A. Noire have pioneered new technology for motion capture and voice acting, and games have become legitimate outlets for big time actors to experiment with interesting new characters.

But no matter how you paint it, video games and movies just aren’t the same thing. Only when Hollywood realises this, will we get a film adaptation of a game that is worth seeing.

I am firmly under the impression that video games are the greatest form of entertainment that exists today. Simply put: games can do the things books, TV, comics, and films can, and then some.

You want beautiful HD visuals accompanied by stunning cinematography and well-designed environments? Games can do that. You want complex narratives with enticing characters and plot twists? Games can do that. Do you want to watch crops grow in your virtual farm, and then share their progress with your Facebook friends? Games can…. Okay ignore that one.

Still, in a time when games are considered, in most circles, as artistically and financially equal to other forms of entertainment, you have to wonder why anybody even wants to adapt games into films. We’ve seen some failed attempts already with the likes of the Tomb Raider and Prince of Persia movies, neither of which managed to boost the profile or success of two already well known game franchises.

The weird thing is: games like Tomb Raider should work in film format. The games themselves revolve heavily around action sequences, impressive set pieces, beautiful scenery and locales, and a single, recognizable character. Similarly, a movie based around Call of Duty would probably work well. The games already feel like homages to action blockbuster films, and it’s not like a COD movie wouldn’t be popular.

This is where we come to Deus Ex, and other such announced adaptations that just cannot work. Games like Deus Ex, Assassin’s Creed and Mass Effect pride themselves (to varying degrees) on their interactive storytelling, freedom of choice, and player experiences that remain unique for each individual player. Movies, on the other hand, are generally linear affairs created for the purpose of watching, rather than taking part.

It would be fair to say that a large portion of Deus Ex: Human Revolution players decided to level Adam Jensen in a way that encouraged the use of the game’s stealth and hacking mechanics, rather than all out combat. It is unlikely, considering the nature of Hollywood blockbusters, that the film adaptation would favour scenes of Jensen hacking into an office computer over scenes of him blasting holes in a dozen bewildered security guards. Why would it? I loved hacking and sneaking my way through DE: HR because that’s my preferred play style, and because it’s fun to do. It is decidedly less fun to watch it happen, and in neglecting these features, you miss out on the player choice mechanics that are integral to the Deus Ex experience.

The same applies to the game’s multiple endings. The player can choose between several outcomes for the narrative, each one affecting the usage and public opinion of augmentations in a different way. A film has to have a beginning, middle and end that remains unchanged regardless of who is watching the film, again eliminating the sense of personal input of the Deus Ex series.

Much like a lot of great movies, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is an interesting, provocative examination of a neo-dystopian future, wherein society is breaking down in some way. Therein lies the problem; DE: HR is already an interesting, provocative examination of a neo-dystopian future, wherein society is breaking down in some way. Adapting it into a film would only detract from the game’s overall experience, without adding anything of worth.

You could argue that the same applies for books to films and vice versa, however; when adapting a book to the big screen, it can often help people to visualise certain elements of the books more easily than if they read the original text. You may miss out on more in depth descriptions of characters or an insight into their thought processes, but depicting the events of a book on screen can add an extra flavour that the books may have been missing. With games, I really can’t see that happening.

At the end of the day, very little has been revealed about these projects, and they might have some great ideas, but fundamentally these games shouldn’t work as movies. They’re just too complex to be worked into a single, linear story.

As I noted before, I’d like to see what a filmmaker could do with more linear titles like Call of Duty or even Halo, since those games are pretty much one-way affairs without a great deal of choice, and if the source material was treated with respect I’m sure they could turn out great.

Games now have the ability to make millions of dollars, and can be played in almost everybody’s home. Believing that a film adaptation could in some way raise the profile or accessibility of a game just feels insulting; not only to the game and its creators, but to the fans as well.   read

4:06 PM on 11.03.2012

A Fistful of Consoles: The End of the Console War

Remember the great console war of the seventh generation? Cries of “Filthy casual!” and “Microsoft fanboy!” thrown about online forums. The piercing whistle of a Wii-mote as it passed your ears, missing its target by mere centimetres.

I’m probably exaggerating (a touch), but regardless, the “console war” was something a great many people took very seriously. Since a lot of us couldn’t afford to buy all the consoles, communities of gamers became divided based on what console they had purchased.

Those who fell on Microsoft’s side were first out of the blocks, with far greater hardware than the previous generation, a growing list of exclusive games, and a dedicated online service. The folks in Sony’s trench, two years later, had the benefit of even more advance hardware, a free online service, and the capability to play Blu-ray discs. Those in the corner of Nintendo were able to experience the first real implementation of 3-D motion controls in gaming, as well as a slew of first party Nintendo exclusives.

But like any great war, there were losses on all sides. The Xbox 360’s hardware aged quickly, and its online service became plagued with advertisements despite the £34.99 entry fee. The PlayStation 3’s online service suffered from being released 2 years after the 360’s, which already had a large install base, as well as constant firmware updates. However, possibly the most tragic of all, the Wii received very little third party support, and after being barraged with mini games and sports titles, public opinion of Nintendo (and motion controls) had plummeted.

The truth is, all the consoles are good, and all the consoles are bad. They appeal to different people of different ages, genders, and tastes. In a way, games consoles are exactly like ice cream.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Insolence! My beloved PlayStation/Wii/Xbox is nothing like the sugary iced treats consumed by infants! I am an adult! Get out you Microsoft/Sony/Nintendo fanboy!”

In spite of those well-constructed arguments, I still believe that videogame consoles and ice cream are exactly the same. Here’s how:

The Xbox 360 is Mint Chocolate Chip

Manly, chunky, and pretty ordinary; mint chocolate chip is satisfying to eat, it just isn’t particularly interesting. It manages to be a jack of all trades, master of few; a flavour enjoyed worldwide because it’s there, it’s easy to find, and it means you won’t have to try more exotic flavours if you don’t want to. If I were to abandon any notions of subtlety, I’d say that mint chocolate chip is also green (Xbox colours) with specs of brown (Gears of War) on it. Conclusive proof if ever I saw it.

The Wii is Raspberry Ripple

Unassuming, inoffensive; raspberry ripple is pretty much impossible not to like a little bit. But at the end of the day, it’s basically vanilla with a bit of fruit chucked in for good measure. You can feed it to your kids and there’s no danger of them loosing teeth on hard bits, and they’ll probably end up flailing their arms around in the living room from all the sugar.

The Nintendo Wi- raspberry ripple also beat its competitors in terms of sales, so it must be popular right? Well if you think that, you aren’t a real ice cream fan. True enough raspberry ripple appeals to those of us who are looking for a more casual ice cream experience, an experience also available in the form of mobile ice-creaming.

The PlayStation 3 is Lemon Sorbet

Those of us looking for a more polished, “up-market” gaming experience, can sample the exotic, fragrant flavours of a lemon sorbet. It’s clearly more advanced than its competitors, but it costs a lot more, so you probably won’t find it in as many households. Clearly impressed with their more “artistic” flavour of ice cream, the manufacturers of lemon sorbet often get a little arrogant, making outlandish claims about their product that they can’t inevitably stick to.

Hold that lemon sorbet under a microscope though, and it’s pretty much a glossier version of Mint Chocolate Chip. An acquired taste, but certainly no less valid in today’s ice cream market.

I couldn’t think of one for PC because there is no Steam flavour.

There you have it! Irrefutable evidence that consoles and ice cream flavours are exactly the same. We should all learn to love our favourite brand of ice cream/games console, all the while accepting its glaring faults. We should also learn to live in harmony with the other flavours/consoles, and respect that they might do things differently from time to time.

You may not like a certain flavour or ever want to eat it, but if somebody, somewhere gets enjoyment out of it, that can only be a good thing.

Of course when the Wii U (I’m going to say Neapolitan flavour) releases in a month, things will go back to normal. Lines will be drawn in the sand. Controllers will fly. Console mascots will be born. Forums will be set aflame. Motion controls will be used.

Because: war. War never changes.   read

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